Tim Parker Is Making a Big Impact With Vancouver
September 10, 2015
GO AHEAD AND ENGRAVE Cyle Larin’s name on Major League Soccer’s Rookie of the Year trophy—it’s his to lose.
But there is another young player who is eyeing significant silverware in his first professional season: Vancouver Whitecaps central defender Tim Parker.
Selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2015 SuperDraft, Parker, 22, has worked his way into Carl Robinson’s Starting XI over the past two months. Beyond his contributions in league play, he has scored goals in both the CONCACAF Champions League and the Canadian Championships—helping his team reach the group stages of the former and claim the title of the latter
And with last night’s shutout win over Coloroado, Vancouver moved past the Los Angeles Galaxy and now boasts the best record in the league—which mean's the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup are also within reach.
"From the moment he's come in, he's been outstanding," Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said. "His mentality has been spot on. He's been calm, he's been cool, and he's playing very good games now. He's taken his chance in the first team."
A handful of MLS rookies emerge every year but few get to play in as many important games as the six-foot-two Parker.
“For my rookie year, I didn’t expect to get as many games as I have,” Parker told American Soccer Now. “So I feel very fortunate. I am very happy I have been able to play and perform. I think I am getting more comfortable as the year goes on. But I still have a lot to learn.”
The Hicksville, N.Y., native was always one of the best players in his area growing up. He came from a family that developed a deep appreciation for the sport and his father coached his traveling team during his early teenage years.
When it was time for him to decide on college, Parker elected to stay close to home and play for St. John’s University—a program that frequently made the NCAA tournament and produced many professional players.
David Masur, soccer coach at St. John's University since 1990, believes that Parker is one of the brightest players to come through the program.
“He’s in the early stage of his career and he has a tremendous upside,” Masur said. “We used him as a right back during his freshman year. He had so many qualities and I think playing outside back helped him a little bit in terms of learning how to move, to operate, and to overlap a little.
“The last three years he played as a central defender and his ability to deal with balls behind the defense is really second to none. His speed and power are really phenomenal. He’s got very good feet and is a good decision maker for a young player.”
Following his senior season—after which he was named first team all-Big East Conference—Parker was invited to the MLS combine and eventually attended. At first, he wanted to begin his career abroad and actively sought out an Irish passport but he was ineligible due to being too far removed from an Irish relative.
Parker eventually wants to play abroad but realizes that one big reason for his success has been his ability to see significant minutes with Vancouver—a club forced to rotate players due to its involvement in three competitions.
"I think being an MLS rookie, one of the biggest challenges is getting adapted as quickly as possible," Parker explained. "You want to be able to pick up the pace of the game as quick as you can. One of the things for me getting used to was being a step ahead.
“When I first got into preseason, I didn’t really know Octavio Rivero that well. The runs he makes and the moves he makes I never saw in college. Playing against him has kind of taught me more—a lot more—than what I learned in college. I’ve definitely adapted. When you’re thrown into the fire, you are forced to learn as you go, and that’s the best thing for you."
Parker is not only confident in his abilities—he also believes the Whitcaps are capable of great things this season.
"We know that we can play with anyone in this league," Parker said. "Whether it is at home or on the road, we know that if we prepare right, focus right, and play well, we can play and outperform anyone. I think that as long as we keep that in our heads and keep our heads on our shoulders, we have the ability to do a lot of big things this year."
While Parker's play has him in the mix for important titles at the club level, returning to the international level is among his top priorities. In the past, he has represented the United States at the U-14, U-15, and U-18 levels, and he is age-eligible for Andi Herzog’s current Olympic qualifying roster, which is set to begin play October 1.
Parker, however, has not heard from U.S. Soccer regarding the U-23s—something his former college coach believes should change.
"He definitely should be on the under-23 team," Masur said. "I think it is rare we are going to find someone as powerful and as fast as Tim in the center back role. If you were to look at all the center backs that could potentially play for the United States national team, I think there are very few people that could physically compete with him."
Parker has a lot of his plate at the moment but still hopes he can earn the call-up to show what he can do.
"Yes, absolutely it is a major goal of mine," Parker said. "I was fortunate enough to play with national teams growing up, and to get back into the mix with the U-23s and the possibility to represent my country at the Olympics, or Olympic qualifying, would be awesome.
“I am just waiting for the call.”
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.